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I am in the hunt for a new space for my studio/sound edit room and can not decide which way to look in terms of the lighting for a new space. I have worked in studios with no windows and dim lighting as well as rooms with windows that light up a room during the day. I think I get more work done in a dark room but sometimes I start to feel like a vampire and after too many long days and I start to miss the sun a lot. On the other hand having a nice bright environment has lots of positives and negatives.

Anyone have any thoughts on which way to go or what works best for you?

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You can always use curtains in a room with windows but you cant add windows to a windowless room.... I personally insist on a room with windows, it is important exercise for the eyes to focus on distance, plus I like to see what time of day/weather etc it is....

Its a personal preference...

There is no problem with natural light & computer screens; as with artificial light you just have to think about where the screens are, relative to the light source..

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  • @Tim - I think the windowless rooms get a little claustrophobic too. Plus I feel like the daylight never happened if you are in the dark all day and the sun is down when you leave the studio. – AzimuthAudio Aug 16 '10 at 21:40
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    When we're mixing films = 4 weeks in a big dark room I actually have a webcam open on my laptop screen with a view of the harbour... And every time I see a photo of a flash studio with no windows I think (a) I couldnt work there long term (b) all that money invested and they couldn't afford windows? meh – user49 Aug 17 '10 at 21:24
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I prefer spotlight-type halogen lights (on a gooseneck or track) that can be aimed at walls or the ceiling. I don't like the light shining down on me, but I like the ambient feel you can get from lighting parts of a wall.

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  • Thats for sure the way to go in a windowless room. Fluorescents are evil devices. – AzimuthAudio Aug 16 '10 at 21:37
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I'm with Tim - big fan of having windows nearby, and having shades to put over them. When I'm working on the stage, I often find myself completely losing track of time, weather, and such. It's a bit unsettling when you walk out of the room and something outside has completely changed... (IE it was sunny when I went in and now it's pitch black out).

Exercising your eyes by focusing in the distance is also a great option to have. Computer screens can destroy your eyes if you don't frequently look away and focus further away. A window is a great way to be able to do this.

I also agree with Chuck on the ambient lighting thing. Not at all a fan of direct lighting when I'm working. It really bothers me.

So, my ideal room is a room with windows that have curtains or shades over them, painted a darker soothing color, with diffused wall sconces or track lighting aimed at the walls giving a dim ambient light feeling. Colored accent lights can be a nice touch too.

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  • I remember working on a film which it rains throughout the whole movie - rain rain rain. it was a character of the story almost. So many rain sound effects. Cut cut cut, rain rain rain. Then I stepped outside and it was sunny HAH I thought it had been raining all day because I was in a dark room listening to rain sound effects and it was sunny, 100 degrees here in LA. – Utopia Aug 16 '10 at 23:32
  • @Colin Wow, you've almost described my room as your ideal room. Room is painted Blue (a darker than sky-blue color), window with blinds, and halogen tracks aimed at the walls. Before I did the paint and the lights, I hated the room and couldn't work in it. It had recessed lights before, which are fine in the kitchen, not in my work room. – Chuck Russom Aug 17 '10 at 6:30
  • @Chuck If you can't handle the light, stay out of the kitchen! ;) No-one said anything about a lava lamp. That's all I see in studios now-a-days. – Utopia Aug 17 '10 at 23:20
  • @Chuck - very jealous! I have direct lighting right now and a doorway that doesn't have a door on it. Although work is a lot nicer - lots of bounced light and dark colors. Hopefully my next house has a better room for my setup! – Colin Hart Aug 17 '10 at 23:39
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There's science that shows that the photoreceptors in your eyes regulate melatonin levels in your body based on the amount of sunlight detected. That's why if someone turns the light on in the morning your body wakes up whether you want it to or not.

There are other studies that relate the amount of sunlight visible to depression levels.

As such, a good working environment probably requires a certain amount of light, and preferably sunlight.

I see people suggesting that your hearing gets better as the lights get darker, but I find that pretty hard to believe. Can anyone link to any science supporting that?

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  • I was thinking precisely about that thing of hearing improvement with lower light. The only thing that pops into my mind is that maybe you get more involved with your sound task due to the ambience. Your body gets less outside stimulation.. maybe it helps you focus. Maybe the same reason people do meditation with their eyes closed. Ok.. I don't know if any of that make sense here.. Although I'm pro-sunlight.. It's very important for me to feel good in my work environment. And as Tim said.. You can always low your sunlight with curtains.. Unfortunately my studio have small windows.. :( – António Porém Pires Sep 14 '10 at 12:50
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Consider this: sunlight makes computer screens suck, a lot. Glare or washout.

And the fact that your hearing increases when the light decreases should be a solid selling point.

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I work in a windowless room with track lighting on dimmers. If you go that route, pay extra special attention to having the right transformer for your lights. Nothing sucks more than a nice, peaceful looking audio room with noisy lighting.

I would love to have windows but have always been told that acoustically it's impractical. I always have these visions of studios with giant panes of glass looking in to live rooms when I'm told this, thinking to myself that these budget oriented owners are just trying to save a buck. What do you guys with windows think? Do you have any problems with reflections? Are these guys full of it or is there some merit to their argument?

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  • I don't know if it's a problem or not but maybe those guys are on headphones on an SFX editing station and don't use speakers :) – Utopia Aug 17 '10 at 3:53
  • You still need to check the stereo field for some SFX, and 'phones get tiring after a few hours (During the Global Game Jam, I pulled something like 16 hours with only an hour lunch in the middle, all on headphones. I'd like to say I'll never do it again, but I'm counting down the days 'til the next GGJ.) – Dave Matney Aug 17 '10 at 4:06
  • @Dave What's GGJ? – Utopia Aug 17 '10 at 23:23
  • @Ryan - Global Game Jam is akin to a 48-hour Film Festival for game developers: globalgamejam.org It's pretty cool. I actually composed a simple 4 stream piece for my friends' team this last year. They implemented the music and it actually worked as theorized, but to no avail. Like a lot of teams they never got to the end, bit off more than they could chew. – Steve Urban Aug 18 '10 at 2:34

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